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Woods Found Guilty of Professional Misconduct in Abuse Cases

The Irish Times - Saturday, January 26, 2002 by Carol Coulter, Legal Affairs Correspondent

Dr Moira Woods, who has been found guilty of professional misconduct in child sex abuse cases

Dr Moira Woods, who has been found guilty of professional misconduct in child sex abuse cases
Photograph: Frank Miller

Dr Moira Woods has been found guilty of professional misconduct by the Medical Council's Fitness to Practise Committee, The Irish Times has learned. This relates to her diagnosis of sexual abuse of children in three families in the 1980s.

Allegations of professional misconduct in relation to members of two other families who also complained to the Medical Council were found not to have been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The report of the Fitness to Practise Committee of the Medical Council, which will go to a full meeting of the council next Tuesday, does not recommend striking Dr Woods off the register of medical practitioners.

However, it does recommend censure and the attachment of a number of conditions to Dr Woods continuing in practice. These conditions can be varied by the Medical Council when it meets next week. Dr Woods can appeal the finding, which was by a majority of the committee, to the High Court.

The inquiry has been going on for five years. It is the longest fitness to practise inquiry in the history of the Medical Council, and has already been the subject of one High Court action on the issue of confidentiality. As a result of this action the hearings took place in camera.

The case began in 1997, when members of five families brought complaints against Dr Woods who had found that the fathers had sexually abused children in their families. These findings were passed on to the appropriate health boards or, in some cases, used in court proceedings. In one case the children were taken into care, but were later returned to their parents. In some other cases the parents separated, or were in the process of separating when the allegations were brought forward.

The complaints concern investigations carried out by Dr Woods, who at the time was head of the Sexual Assault Trauma Unit in the Rotunda Hospital. Although set up to deal with adult victims of sexual abuse, it quickly became overwhelmed with child alleged victims. Many hundreds of children were seen there by Dr Woods in the late 1980s, 600 in 1987 alone.

The majority of the Fitness to Practise Committee has found that the protocols recommended by international experts at that time, and adopted by the SATU, were not followed in a number of the cases. It also found that the appropriate approach to validation was not adopted, that, in certain cases, Dr Woods failed to gather all the evidence that was available and in others failed to review cases or findings.

Five allegations were laid against her; alleging she failed to apply the necessary standards of judgment and competence in relation to some or all of 11 children, failed to act in their best interests and acted in a manner derogatory to the reputation of the medical profession.

All the allegations were upheld in relation to certain of the children. However, they were not upheld in relation to five children from one family and one from another.

Among the conditions the Fitness to Practise Committee proposes be attached to Dr Woods's continuing in practice are that she must undergo retraining and professional development, and that she only engage in this type of work as part of an expert multi-disciplinary team.


Medical Council finds Dr Woods guilty of professional misconduct

The Irish Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002 by Carol Coulter, Legal Affairs Correspondent

Dr Moira Woods, who pioneered the treatment of child sex abuse in Ireland, has been found guilty of professional misconduct by the Medical Council.

She has been censured and conditions attached to her continued registration as a medical practitioner. The Medical Council will seek a confirmation of this decision in the High Court in 21 days.

In a statement Dr Woods said she was disappointed at the findings, and her work was motivated by the best interests of the children at all times. She added she was considering her position. She can appeal the decision to the High Court.

The Medical Council's decision followed an all-day meeting yesterday, which discussed a report from its Fitness to Practice committee. This followed an investigation of allegations from five families, first made almost 10 years ago, that they had been falsely accused in the 1980s of child sex abuse by Dr Woods, who was then director of the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit in the Rotunda Hospital. The committee's report was completed last December, and placed before the full council yesterday. It found Dr Woods guilty of professional misconduct in respect of 13 of a total of 55 allegations, relating to five children from three families. Allegations relating to six other children were found not to have been proved.

In its report the Fitness to Practice committee recommended that Dr Woods be censured, and that conditions be attached to her continuing to practise. These were that she undergo retraining recognised by the council, and only practise in the child abuse area in future as part of a multi-disciplinary team.

The Medical Council did not say if it would publish the report of the Fitness to Practice committee. It said each family involved in the inquiry would receive, within the coming weeks, an individualised report dealing with the section of the inquiry relating to its complaint.

In a statement issued on her behalf Dr Woods said she was disappointed by the findings, and added: "The Sexual Assault Treatment Unit at the Rotunda Hospital, founded in 1985 and of which Dr Woods was the first director, was a pioneering facility in the diagnosis and understanding of sexual abuse. Dr Woods is proud of her work at the unit and the positive role it played in the development of such services."